Khichdi (pronounced Khi-cha-ri) is one of those quintessential dishes one almost only eats at home. Every family probably has its own version of this dish and the differences can vary from tiny variations in spices to more fundamental ones about how many types of lentils of use. At home, this was the dish my mother made when something quick and nutritious had to be on the table or when one of us wasn’t feeling well and needed something light and easy to digest. It’s also a dish we’ve taken to making once or twice every time she visits me in Frankfurt, usually at the tail end of her trip after innumerable restaurant meals and non-regular ingredients. In other words, when both her tastebuds and her digestion are craving something simple that evokes home.
This a dish that's very easy to make—all the ingredients basically go into one pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. You’re left with a dish that is packed with nutrients and is easily assimilated—unlike other lentils, yellow moong is very gentle on the digestion. It’s also warm and restorative, and all the herbs and spices that are packed into it are both cleansing and healing. This is the perfect dish to make for cooler weather, but you can also make up a big pot and eat it as a cleansing course for a week. It’s easy to re-heat and if you find it drying out, add a splash of water to make it as soft and moist as you’d like. Feel free to top off with an egg, a dollop of yoghurt or something crunchy on the side. I recommend always finishing off with a little ghee on the top.
Note: I like my khichadi to have a soft, mushy texture and so the proportion of water to rice and lentils below caters to that. Adding more water will result in a more porridge-consistency. If you’re unsure what you’d like, start with 3 cups and slowly add more during the cooking process.
Moong Daal and Rice Khichdi
3/4 cup yellow moong lentils
1/4 cup basmati rice
2 teaspoons ghee or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper corns, lightly crushed
15—20 fresh or dried curry leaves
1/2 cm piece of ginger, crushed or finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
3 cups water
Mix the rice and lentils together in a large bowl and wash until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
Set a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium heat and add the ghee or oil. Once it’s warmed, add the cumin seeds and the asafoetida. Stir until the seeds pop, about 30 seconds. Add the curry leaves and stir together, once the leaves start spluttering gently, add the rice and lentils. Stir together and then add in the turmeric, pepper corns and ginger. Add the water and salt to taste, stir together and raise the heat to bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce the heat so that the mixture is simmering gently, cover with a lid and cook until the rice and lentils are well done, about 30 minutes. Check the progress about halfway through and if you feel the dish is drying out, add a tiny bit of water. Once the khichdi is cooked through, turn off the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with a spoon or two of ghee and serve hot.
Images: Vatsala Murthy